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Randall End of the Line When Frank and I stepped through the post office doors, there was a crowd gathered, gawking at the new fixture on the wall like a chorus of wide-mouthed frogs. I had to get closer, and that was where being a girl that's scrawnier than a wire fence came in handy. Fortunately, Frank, my twin of eleven years, was just the same. "Come on." I said, grabbing his hand, and we slid through the cracks between people until we spilled out in front. Finally I got a good look. It was fixed to the plaster next to the postmaster's window, the place of honor usually reserved for the Wanted posters. Beady-eyed Zedekiah Smith, the bank robber, still hung there, but even he had been pushed aside for something more important. A telephone. The first one in town. "How's it work?" Noah Crawford called out. Noah's the best fix-it man around, and I could tell he was itching to get his fingers on those shiny knobs. "Don't rightly know," answered the postmaster, and he tugged at his goatee as if it might tell him. "I do know the sound of your voice moves along wires strung on poles. It's sort of like the telegraph, only you hear words instead of dots and dashes." "Ah," the crowd murmured, and I felt my own mouth move along. I gazed at that gleaming wood box and something happened inside me. Something — I can only guess — that might be like falling in love. The thought of talking into that box — of making my voice sail through wires in the sky — it took over my brain. I couldn't get it out. "Frank," I whispered to my twin. "I have to use that telephone." Five minutes later, Frank towed me up Main Street, toward home. "Liza — " he began, but I cut him off. We two thought so much alike, I had Frank's questions answered before he even asked. < 2 > "You're right," I said. "It costs five cents and I don't have it. But look." I pulled him over to the window of Poulson's Variety Store. "You see those?" I pointed to a handful of shimmery rocks spread on black velvet. Some were a shiny gray shot through with gold streaks, others yellow as cheese curds. And one, clear and jagged, sat like an icicle, leftover from wintertime.
"If I found one of those. Strange. only wearing a pink tutu and carrying a frilly umbrella. his palm held more than we'd hoped. "But Liza — " I held up a hand — he couldn't tell me anything I didn't already know. then disappeared around the curve. hoping to see shimmery rocks littering the floor. I bet they'd pay me for it.Frank's eyebrows screwed up and I could tell he wasn't following. but I knew better. voices sounded in the next cavern over: "Zed. especially scrawny ones. < 3 > I stepped inside. "Where did that come from?" I whispered and reached out a finger to touch. same as me. Frank knew he had no choice. I'd come up right behind Frank when." Two men stepped through a gap in the far wall. Frank's eyes nearly popped. It looked a lot like me. The air smelled of mildew and rotted beams. I followed fast. my arms turning to goose bumps from the chill. and when he stood. Just then. The hole in the sage-covered hill had been shored up by timbers. I felt a bit guilty about fooling my ma. my voice did. That mine had sat empty for years." I explained. too. I gazed around. 'cause it takes two of us to make one of most people." Frank shrugged. He stooped. but dust was all I saw. Twins stick together. She thought we were off to search the dry creek bed. We spent half the morning on the dusty road to North Creek. He wanted to explore that old mine. Besides. We reached the old mine around noon. With a shake of his head. pretending not to care. I'll bet we could find some at North Creek — in the mine. A gold coin. and I didn't correct her. grabbed. but whenever a pang hit. They were weathered and splintery. hold it higher. Once my eyes got used to the dim. . I conjured up the vision of my voice dancing along wires in the sky. Ma packed a lunch but said she couldn't understand walking all that way for rocks. but also of horse sweat and wood smoke. Frank hooked two thumbs under his suspenders. ting. "I've got that figured. Frank walked past me to where the walls narrowed. his boot connected with metal. and looked like a picture frame around nothing.
and Frank twitched." I told him. "Does she always talk this much?" he asked Frank. hiding his head in his sleeves." "It wouldn't be bad without you. "You stole it. The other wore a battered hat. I tried to run. then dropped his saddlebags and ran for us. But for once. hoping to disappear into shadow.They weren't miners. "You don't want that. I plastered myself to the wall." I said." I said. Musta fallen out. That's dirty money. "Shouldn't go poking your noses in bad places. being hauled to our feet by a sharp-nailed hand. as he tied our hands behind us. turning them even beadier. or bit by rattlers. He. "a couple of spies. too. we weren't scrawny enough. "Hey!" The mustached man pointed. eh?" Mustache Man pried open Frank's fingers. the bank robber. There's a new telephone in town. his face hid in its shadow. You do talk a lot. brushing myself off. When he raised his lantern." Zedekiah Smith narrowed his eyes. Frank and I were back to back on the ground. "We're not spies. Frank — the traitor — nodded." our captor cried. but met up with Frank's backside. "Sure it would. One held saddlebags over a shoulder and had a mustache that hung past his jaw. the light shone full on those beady eyes. "Caleb's right. I could tell that from one glance. he!" He tightened his knots then . Zed." Caleb said. boy. They were dressed for riding." Five minutes later." Caleb said. Lucky you got us instead. You could've got caught in a cave-in." < 4 > "No. It was Zedekiah Smith. "Looking for rocks. "Lookee here." "You made it that way. The gold coin glowed warm in the lantern light. Zed." Zedekiah Smith strode over and picked the coin out of Frank's palm. and I just wanted to — Ow!" The mustache man yanked my hair. "That's what you get. Frank hunched over. "Old mine's a dangerous place. "Lookee here. Frank and I were on the ground. The next thing I knew. We were looking for rocks to sell. with leather chaps and spurs.
It wasn't that he'd worked his bony wrists out of Caleb's knots. . This was a bad place. one with chaps and a hat. I was about to turn in that outlaw. I wouldn't last a day. Caleb was right. "There. when Ma found my lifeless body. "Someone will find you in a day or so." Zedekiah Smith took up the lantern and without looking back they passed through the opening in the rock wall. "Phew. watching Caleb do the dirty work. < 5 > We were alone in dark so thick it stopped up my nose. And worse. "We need to get to town and report Zedekiah Smith. well." 'Liza — " Frank started up. "Just let us go." We rounded the wall and ran smack into another. Ma wouldn't have to find my lifeless body after all." Zedekiah Smith stood back. his eyes shaded again. I was about to sink into despair." "Ha!" Caleb shouldered the saddlebags. Right Zed?" "That's right. he had us trussed in his arms like two pigs for slaughter. "We won't tell. That was plain Frank. relief washing over me at my second chance at life." I begged. I rubbed my wrists. I'd work on that." I couldn't believe it when the ropes went slack. "I'm free. Jumping to my feet." I said. the best way to begin my new life. The real surprise was that he'd come up with the idea without my help. but I knew where he was heading. We'll be long gone by then. But first. I grabbed Frank's arm and towed him toward the exit. "Think of the telephone calls I could make with that reward money. trying to figure how Frank had managed to surprise me so. but Frank distracted me with more twitching." he said. I had another good deed in mind. Before we could move." Then something else occurred to me.stood straight. And as for the liar part. "I'd like to see you keep your mouth still. Zedekiah Smith was back. she'd know I was a liar. I listened until the jingle of their spurs faded. "Of course we'll split it.
Twenty-five cents went to Frank. "Now." For once. releasing us." I froze. and he took a step back. " < 6 > "I came back to cut you loose. Pink tutu and frilly umbrella. who wasted it on candy. "It won't do to have him telling people about my weak stomach. "No. my vision dissolved. "But . ." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pale yellow rock studded with honey-colored crystals. like a duet of wide-mouthed frogs. We didn't make it to the Sheriff's office until the next morning." he whispered. both drifted off like a dandelion in the wind. . you stay hidden until I get Caleb away. I had a hard time filling my mouth with words. "You'd better do your duty and report me. And just like that. just like I should. "I saw it out in the dry creek bed. but I've got no stomach for hurting people. I saved mine for something monumental."Let go!" I cried. it didn't feel like a good deed anymore." I announced. Nobody I knew had a telephone. Might be worth a telephone call. . there were a few lookers as I walked to the counter and laid down my nickel." His arms went limp. "I'd like to make a telephone call. Old Mr. The post office wasn't crowded anymore. Poulson's eyes kindled when he saw the crystal rock. My voice couldn't dance along wires — it had no place to go. "Shh." "Are you feeling poorly?" Frank asked and Zedekiah Smith laughed. Then he turned and walked out into the sunlight. Frank and I gawked. But take this in case that reward money's long in coming." He dropped it into my hand and gave a wink. "How about that. Still. "Caleb thinks I forgot something. I turned to Frank and found him grinning. but for some reason. stroking his goatee. pounding his chest. I reported Zedekiah Smith. Who would you like to call?" "Who?" I echoed. Our next stop was the Variety Store." the postmaster said." he whispered. "You'll be the first.
" "You did?" I thought back to the day before and realized that maybe he had. I'll try hard to listen. speak up. He shrugged."You saw it all along. After taking one last. loving look at the telephone. ." I accused. Maybe candy would be a good use for that nickel after all. I turned away from the counter. "next time you have something to say." The poster of Zedekiah Smith seemed to nod at me as we passed." I said. "I tried to tell you. "Frank. I'd been too busy using my own mouth to notice. pondering those thoughts he kept having without me.